Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Teacher communication: It is imperative that all teachers involved in the collaboration connect and communicate very often. This should involve an email list, (Google groups is a great way to do this and takes participants beyond using personal email addresses), and holding synchronous meetings via Skype or a virtual meeting room (e.g., Fuze).
Collaboration tools: Make sure there is full understanding between participating teachers that the tools can be used and accessed and will be monitored by all. Some teachers will find global collaboration a steep learning curve and need support to understand how to be active in the online spaces. It is very important for success that all teachers are responding and encouraging all students - not just their own students.
Collaboration workflow: A timeline for collaboration must be set. It can then be tweaked by mutual agreement as needed. All participants must share their upcoming holidays and any times when they will not be in school. This avoids frustration when a set of students does not respond for a week or two and it has not been made clear they are on a break.
Respect, respect, respect!
All participants in a global collaboration must join the learning opportunity with respect for others. For an average teacher with a class of 20+ different personalities and dispositions this is often a challenge. However these strategies combined with regular teacher discussions to monitor progress will help to build a rich learning experience for all global partners.
Collaboration challenges to plan for: Although difficult to plan for everything here are further challenges that can erode the success of a global collaborative project:
- Global digital citizenship – Discuss with students beforehand. Are they prepared to work in a multicultural learning environment? Do they have an essential understanding of the cultures they will be interacting with and know how to avoid possible taboo subjects? Do they know not to use colloquialisms and native language as this alienates their partners?
- Online learning habits and behaviours – Teachers and students may be new to learning while online. Simple guidelines and protocols should be set up at the start of the collaboration. Learning how to introduce yourself digitally, learning how to start a discussion and respond to a discussion in a sensible and informative way are skills that most students (and teachers) do not naturally possess
- Monitoring Web 2.0 technologies – It is very important that teachers monitor all spaces where students are connecting and collaborating. This does not mean acting as disciplinarians (although there may be some call for this) but to be present and active - respond to discussions, join chats, let students know you are around and not just watching but participating as an interested collaborator. Encourage students to be engaged and monitor as well
- Monitoring the learning community – Remember, using digital technologies means that in most cases a digital footprint is being left, therefore a record of who has done what is available. Teachers must set up agreed protocols for addressing any misbehaviour (whether intentional or not). Typical things that can go wrong include uploading an inappropriate picture for an avatar or to a communal space; using bad language in a forum or chat; discussing the teacher in an inappropriate way; having ‘in-conversations’ online that exclude global partners.
- Language and spellings – Do not assume something is incorrect as there are many global alternatives for spelling, phrasing and understanding. One main objective is not to use colloquialisms unless they are explained
- Seasons and date formats – Take a global view at all times. For clarity it is best to use the month and date rather than talk about the season e.g. October rather than ‘Fall’ or ‘Spring’ (yes! there is always more than one season happening in the world at once, in fact some countries, Bangladesh for example, have six categorized seasons). Be aware that most countries use the DD/MM/Year format
- Holidays and weekly workflow – Muslim countries have Friday off school and are in school on Sundays - there are other variations on this as well to be aware of. Holidays vary across the world and one of the exciting aspects of global collaboration is sharing what each holiday represents for each partners
Popular communication tools in Asia
- Wechat: Connect with friends across platforms in a walkie-talkie format
- Weibo: Popular microblogging website, similar to Twitter or Facebook
- RenRen: Social networking site very close to Facebook
- Yahoo Messenger: Connect with friends from any web browser, no download required.
- WhatsApp: Allows for mobile messaging without SMS fees, available on most smartphones
- Classting: Allows teachers to communicate with students in their classes
- Oovoo: Free video chat, can communicate with up to 12 people at one time
- Kakao Talk: Chat one-on-one, or with an unlimited number of friends worldwide for free